WASHINGTON (AFP) ― The United States responded cautiously Friday to North Korea’s announcement it would discuss operations to locate U.S. dead from the 1950-53 Korean War, saying only that the issue was important.
North Korea said it had accepted a U.S. proposal to talk about resuming searches for remains ― one of the few means of interaction between the two countries until then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ended operations in 2005, citing security concerns.
U. S. Defense Department and State Department officials said that they had no information on when discussions with North Korea, or the operations themselves, would resume.
“The United States considers remains recovery operations to be an important humanitarian mission,” said Major Carie Parker, spokeswoman at the Pentagon’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
“The Department of Defense remains committed to achieving the fullest possible accounting for U.S. servicemen missing from the Korean War, as well as from other conflicts,” she said, declining further comment.
A State Department spokesperson gave an identical statement.
By the latest count, Parker said that 7,989 U.S. servicemen remained unaccounted for from the Korean War and that some 5,500 were estimated to be in North Korea.
The Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and the North has had persistently rocky relations with the United States.
But tensions had recently shown signs of abating with senior U.S. and North Korean officials holding talks in New York in July and the United States on Thursday announcing $900,000 in aid after the reclusive country was hit by floods.
President Barack Obama’s administration has pursued what it calls “strategic patience” with North Korea, refusing to offer concessions until Pyongyang clearly commits to giving up its nuclear weapons and improving relations with the democratic South.